CTO Sessions: Arvind Nithrakashyap, Rubrik

What makes an effective tech strategy? "I think the key to an effective tech strategy is a careful management of pace."

1 2 Page 2
Page 2 of 2

What was your first job? As soon as I completed my Master's Degree, I began working as a Software Engineer at Oracle. This proved to be a great starting opportunity for me, as I rapidly progressed in the role and ended up co-founding Oracle Exadata - a product line that is specialised and optimised for running the Oracle Database. This was also where I first met Bipul Sinha - CEO and fellow co-founder of Rubik. 

Did you always want to work in IT? Yes, I have always been interested in computers and IT. After graduating from University in Computer Science, it was a natural progression to enter the world of tech. 

What was your education? Do you hold any certifications? What are they? I completed my Bachelor's degree in Computer Science from the Indian Institute of Technology in Madras and went on to study this at Master's level at the University of Massachusetts. 

Explain your career path. Did you take any detours? If so, discuss. As I mentioned earlier, I began my career at Oracle. After eight years at the company, however, I felt that I needed to expand my skill-set and experiences further, so decided to move to a start-up called Purisma, as I thought it would offer me more exposure to all areas of the business and throw me into some complex and challenging situations. I stayed there for almost three years, until the startup was acquired by a much larger company and was no longer the best fit for me.

I left Purisma without securing another role and used this as an opportunity to take a career break and travel with my wife, which was always a wish of ours. We travelled for six months around South America and also from Uzbekistan through to China - an experience we will cherish forever. 

On my return, I worked as a lead architect for a Real Time Bidding Platform for Rocket Fuel Inc. This was a very steep learning curve for me, given how different it was to my previous roles. After four years working here, I reconnected with Bipul Sinha and we co-founded Cloud Data Management company Rubrik. 

What type of CTO are you? My position as both CTO and Co-Founder of Rubrik requires me to wear many hats. I am deeply connected with the engineering team, customer support and product teams. Connecting with customers and understanding their evolving needs is a top priority for me. Their input informs our product roadmap and also helps us focus on key customer needs.

Which emerging technology are you most excited about the prospect of? I would say AI and machine learning. To some that might mean self-driving cars, but the thing that excites me most about this type of technology is the applications that are popping up to improve business processes. For example, software that offers guidelines and tips to humans to navigate business process that may be too complex for a human to manage. The impact this has to businesses as a whole and their day-to-day operations is phenomenal. It is still very early days, so I'm very excited about how this will play out and develop. 

Are there any technologies which you think are overhyped? Why? It seems to me that everyone is talking about blockchain at the moment. I understand that the prospect of an immutable audit trail of transactions is exciting, but I think the hype around it has meant we are overlooking its usefulness in reality. It remains to be seen how blockchain translates into real world applications. 

What is one unique initiative that you've employed over the last 12 months that you're really proud of? We've always collected data from our products and information about how our software operates, but over the last twelve months, we've really honed this process. We've built a product metrics framework that gives us much greater insight than ever before. At the moment, we're currently focusing on utilising this data internally to inform decisions for our business and product teams, as well as to guide us on possible product improvements. This data will be very important as we scale our business because it helps us to become more metrics-driven, it gives us crucial insights into our product progress and how we can improve it, whilst allowing us to provide more proactive customer support.

Are you leading a digital transformation? If so, does it emphasise customer experience and revenue growth or operational efficiency? If both, how do you balance the two? We're fortunate that we're a young company; we've started with a cloud-first mindset and don't have too much legacy that we have to transform. Most of our applications are Software as a Service and all of our business teams, such as HR, use the latest cloud technologies for their operations. Rubrik's platform certainly plays a key role in many of our customers' digital transformation initiatives as we help them manage the growth and data as part of these projects.

What is the biggest issue that you're helping customers with at the moment? Customers are currently exposed to a lot of data and many applications and must learn to navigate a world in which software is superseding previously manual tasks. For us, it's important to help them along this journey and also to support those customers trying to handle new business requirements - such as security and GDPR. It's a priority for us to make the transition from legacy infrastructure to the cloud a manageable one, and one which works for customers' businesses. 

How do you align your technology use to meet business goals? In my opinion, technology is at its most interesting when it is harnessed to solve business problems. I am always interested in how new innovations can make business processes more efficient and how data can be used to improve a customer's experience. 

Do you have any trouble matching product/service strategy with tech strategy? We've never really had any issues matching product strategy with tech strategy. I think this is because our products are designed to solve the issues customers have been facing with technology and we have been customer-orientated from the beginning. 

Customers have varying requirements, so the key challenge we face is to continue to ensure that we build a product that can be easily customised to meet individual needs. 

What makes an effective tech strategy? I think the key to an effective tech strategy is a careful management of pace. As a tech company, you always have to keep innovating. However, it is vital that you prioritise understanding where the customers currently stands in their digital transformation journey, and that subsequently you build something that is relevant to them in the here and now. Therefore, you are continuing to innovate to ensure your customer gets where they need to be, but you are not building something that is so far out there that it is not currently useful for them. As much as businesses want to invest in the future they can't invest in something that will not be relevant for the next 5-10 years.

What predictions do you have for the role of the CTO in the future? As far as I see it, the CTO must strike a balance between being aware of where their organisation stands in the market, as well as keeping an eye out for potential future developments or investments into others. We are currently living in a very fast-paced business environment, where start-up companies and new products can be developed in a very short period of time. The CTO therefore has a crucial role in keeping an organisation relevant and ahead of the competition. 

What has been your greatest career achievement? I am really proud of what we've managed to achieve at Rubrik. The company has grown in such a short time beyond what we ever expected and we've put together a fantastic team of employees. Since we founded the company in 2014, we've grown to more than 1500 employees across six continents. Alongside this, we are proud to boast over 1500 customers and it is always great to be able to see our direct impact in helping them solve their business problems. Still, I think we're just at the start of our journey and have big ambitions for the future. 

Looking back with 20:20 hindsight, what would you have done differently? As I have mentioned, one of the most remarkable things about Rubrik has been its speed of growth - both in terms of revenue and in terms of people. Of course, this has been a fantastic thing for the company, but it has brought challenges with it too. If I were to do it over again, I would have invested more in onboarding to quickly ramp up our new employees and prepare them for the demands of a hypergrowth business. Today, we have a robust training program in place. But, it's never too soon to invest in employee development.

What are you reading now? Most of the time, I read non-fiction books. At the moment, I have just finished Bad Blood by John Carreyrou. It is an incredibly well-written and gripping account of what happened in the company and really keeps the reader engaged throughout the entire book.

Most people don't know that I… Took a career break to travel the world with my wife. Our route took us around South America and also the Silk Road from Uzbekistan to China.

In my spare time, I like to…Spend time with my family. I have a 6-year old son, and so the little spare time I get is usually spent with him! We really love travelling as a family which means that a lot of my free time is taken up with planning trips for all of us to go on. I've also always been interested in music, but I can't find much room for it in my life at the moment.

Ask me to do anything but… Nothing! As a founder of a company, you have to be able to do whatever is required and contribute where needed. There really is no task that is outside your role and no job that is beneath you.

1 2 Page 2
Page 2 of 2